Amid the ongoing conflict between the hi-tech, professional, and well-equipped Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a ragtag band of Hamas fighters headquartered in the Gaza Strip, a key question is how the latter came to possess so many rockets and projectiles that were fired into Israel, and how big is the stockpile?
Hamas itself claimed that it fired more than 6,000 projectiles since the dawn of October 7 besides using drones and assault guns extensively.
The range of these rockets vary from the short-range ‘Qassam’ and ‘Grad’ rockets with up to 15-48 km reach to the M-75 with 75-km range to the 160-km range R-160, covering nearly the whole of Israel.
Already blockaded by Israel for many years, how has Hamas managed to equip itself with so many rockets, drones, assault weapons and limitless ammunition? That too, with all equipment stockpiled in the narrow Gaza Strip that is just a 365 sqkm big enclave.
According to a report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Hamas had already developed enormous capability to self-produce its arsenal.
The August 1, 2021 report of the leading think-tank said, “The terrorist group (Hamas) was no longer a force fighting an asymmetrical war with asymmetrical tactics and weapons. Hamas is now manufacturing a large part of its own weapons, expanding its research, and developing drones and unmanned underwater vehicles, engaging in cyber warfare, and on the cusp of graduating from unguided rockets to precision GPS-guided drones and missiles.”
On October 7, it was a swarm of armed drones launched by Hamas that neutralised many of Israel’s radar systems.
From the military point of view, that is an enormous step for a non-state actor that is always under the powerful scrutiny and close probing eyes of a powerful adversary.
The report adds, “They (Hamas) collect unexploded Israeli ordnance for the explosives contained within, recycle streetlight poles or war detritus from the deserted Israeli communities in Gaza for launch tubes, and make projectile tubes from plumbing pipes.”
“The destruction of several hi-rise buildings in May 2021 left much more wiring, pipes, rebar, cement, and metal available for ‘recycling.’”
Besides Iran’s overwhelming patronage and scientific guidance, smuggling is the other mode of sourcing for weapons-making material mainly through an intricate network of tunnels.
Some of these tunnels are underwater.
Pointing out one instance, the report said, “Evidence suggests that Hamas imported weapons through an underwater tunnel on the Mediterranean coast. The ‘stevedores’ tasked with unloading the submersed arms deliveries were Hamas naval commandos, numbering some 400 divers.”
The report had warned: “Potential weapons for terrorist assault include drones, unmanned explosive speedboats, naval mines, commando raids, and torpedo-like submersible drones equipped with GPS. Weapons such as these are in use by the Iran-supplied Houthis in Yemeni waters, and they will likely show up in Hizbullah and Hamas hands, as well.”
While about 90 per cent of rockets are usually intercepted by the ‘Iron Dome’ air defence system, Israel’s laser-based ‘Iron Beam’ is believed to be ready for deployment.
Meanwhile, more than 4,200 people have been killed, and over 10,00,000 people have been displaced in just ten days of the conflict.